Gustaf Nelhans

Faculty of Librarianship, Information, Education and IT (including The Swedish School of Library and Information Science)

Swedish School of Library and Information Science

Telephone: 033-435 5985

Mobile: 0790-662960


Room number: C530

Signature: GUNE


Dr. Gustaf Nelhans is a theorist of science and senior lecturer at the Swedish School of Library and Information Science (SSLIS) at University of Borås, Sweden. His research focuses on the performativity of scientometric indicators as well as on the theory, methodology and research policy aspects of the scholarly publication in scientific practice using a science and technology studies (STS) perspective. Presently he leads a Work Package in the Horizon 2020 funded project “Big DATA approaches FOR improved monitoring of research and innovation performance and assessment of the societal IMPACT in the Health, Demographic Change and Wellbeing Societal Challenge” (Grant ID. 770531). Here his focus of interest is directed towards evaluation of societal relevance such as professional impact, i.e., citation performance in clinical guidelines, as well as altmetric studies of Twitter conversations of health issues.

Brief professional sketch

In my research, I am contributing to a quantitative branch in theory of science (broadly defined as Science, Technology Studies, STS) where the focus on scientific practice, directed towards the scientometric study of publications, research activities and networks of scientific culture. My thesis, Citeringens praktiker – Det vetenskapliga publicerandet som teori, metod och forskningspolitik (‘Practices of citations – the scientific publication as theory, method and research policy’) was successfully defended on September 27th, 2013. Faculty opponent was Professor Mats Benner, Research Policy Institute, Lund University and the committee consisted of Professor Ulla Eriksson Zetterquist, Institute Director Gothenburg Research Institute, Associate Professor Fredrik Åström, University Library at Lund University and Professor emeritus Aant Elzinga, University of Gothenburg. Chairperson at the disputation proceedings was Mats Fridlund at Aalto University, Finland, who was also acting supervisor together with Margareta Hallberg, University of Gothenburg who was primary supervisor for the thesis.

In the analysis of internal scientific debates (drawing on controversy studies) and in studying the development of research fields and discipline-building, I argue that citation analyses of individual researchers publication patterns is a set of variables that the theorist of science can draw on to identify (important) aspects of research, which has largely been neglected within STS during the later years where qualitative studies has been preferred. But true to the tenets of STS research, using data retrieved from Thomson Reuters Web of Science, the focus is on individual articles in terms of references given and citations received in a context that is labelled the ‘citation network’, instead of focusing on large aggregated data sets where individual contributions are easily masked.

At the same time, researchers are becoming increasingly aware of the use of bibliometrics to evaluate research and to allocate funding. In the project I try to identify if and how this results in actors changing their practices of doing research and to what degree this has resulted in a self-reflexive performative “citation culture” (Wouters, 1999) that turns researchers to develop various publication and research practices to maximize the impact of and reward from their publications. In doing this I aim to take the practice turn within science studies a step away from the laboratory to also look at publishing as a distinct material practice with its specific cultural practices. The thesis aims to develop a way to discuss scientometric indicators in a context where researchers, articles, the citation index as used in the “performative citation culture” are constantly creating and recreating each other in what has come to be known as “the mangle of practice” (Pickering, 1995). In addition to Pickering’s work and scientometrics my methodological work on a modern reconceptualization of STS scientometrics is influenced by the perspectives of the performativity of scientific texts by Steve Woolgar and texts as political and enrolling intermediaries by Bruno Latour.

Presently I am employed as a senior lecturer in Library and Information science at the University of Borås where I am teaching in the area of Informetrics (bibliometrics, scientometrics and webometrics) theory of science and digital methods. Earlier,  I lead a Work Package in the Horizon 2020 financed project Data for Impact, which is a collaboration between research groups from many European countries. I have also done research in The co-production of social science and society: the case of Happiness studies, PI Margareta Hallberg, Theory of Science, University of Gothenburg, financed by the Swedish Research Counsil (Vetenskapsrådet), together with Christopher Kullenberg, mapping the research area and visualizing aspects of the developments within the field. I was also part of the project File sharing after IPRED, PI Jan Nolin, University of Borås, where I did media analysis, webometric analyses on Wikipedia data and content analyses on comment fields in blogs and Youtube entries. In this research, I used cluster analysis methods, Spatial and Social Network Analysis (SSNA) and visualization techniques for large sets of “Internet data”.

Recently I was invited speaker at an international workshop on 'Best Practices' in bibliometrics, organized by The Association of Swedish Higher Education, followed by a two day course on bibliometrics for practitioners at the universities and the corporate sector.

Some years ago I gave two talks on perspectives on the use of bibliometrics for research policy in Sweden. First a keynote presentation at a shared event with Blaise Cronin, Rudy professor in Information Science at Indiana University and Editor-in-Chief, Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. The title of my contribution was: ‘Inscribed and circumscribed by citations – Indicators, impact and quality in the humanities and social sciences’. Bibliometrics at the Crossroads, Seminar on Scientific Indicators, University of Borås and Chalmers University Library, Gothenburg: May 24th, 2012.

A version of this talk was also given at the 4S/EASST conference October 17-20, 2012, Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark at a session entitled Mapping the dynamics of the social sciences and humanities.

The thesis (in Swedish, with an English summary) is available at and in printed form directly from the author.

Contact info:

Gustaf Nelhans
University of Borås
Visiting Address: Allégatan 1, room C526
SE 501 90 Borås Sweden
Tel: 033-435 5985



Internal and external appointments and expert advice

Internally appointed as Gender Equality representative at the Department of History of Ideas and Theory of Science 2004-2005, Co-leader of the SSLIS Digital Resources and Services Research Group, SSLIS, University of Borås (Oct, 2013–Jan., 2018) and Elected member of the Research and education board, University of Borås, (Jan. 2015 – Dec. 2017). Since Feb 2020, I have been the Director of Doctoral Studies at the SSLIS. I am presently the Director for the Data as Impact Lab.

Externally appointed as a member of the The Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions’ workgoup on Bibliometrics (SUHF:s Forum för bibliotekschefers arbetsgrupp för bibliometri) 2020-.;  Appointed board member of the National Library of Sweden’s Advisory council for the period May 2019- Dec. 2021, renewed for the period Jan. 2022- Dec. 2024 (Ref. Tina Abelin, Ministry of Education and Research), as well as the National Library of Sweden’s Research council (Ref. Jonas Nordin, secretary) 2018-to date, and the national working group on The current merit and resource allocation system versus incentives for open access, National Library of Sweden 2017-2019 (Ref. Beate Eellend, coordinator). Between 2019-2021 I was a member of the Innovative Metrics Working Group. Liber, Association of European Research Libraries. Ref. Charlotte Wien, Chair.)

In 2019, I was invited as an expert discussant on Open Access/Plan S. Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, Board group meeting May 13 (Ref Marika Hedin, CEO). Honorary assoiciate Research Librarian at the University of Southern Denmark since 2019. I also provided Expert advice and draft contribution on policy for researcher address affiliations, Västra Götalandsregionen in 2018 (Ref. Lars Grip: Anvisningar för angivande av affiliering vid publikationer utgående från sjukvårdsenheter i Västra Götalandsregionen). and contributed to a pilot bibliometric model for evaluating research impact in clinical guidelines. Clinical research within the ALF agreement, Swedish Research Council 2017 (Ref. Andreas Augustsson, SRC. In 2015 I was invited as an Expert commentator for the ”Riktlinjer för utvärderande bibliometri i Sverige”. (Commisioned by SUHF:s forum för bibliotekschefers arbetsgrupp för bibliometri). Nov, 2015


Academic peer review

Member of the editorial board of Information Research (2020-).

Member of the advisor board of Reviewer Credits (2017-2020).

Referee, Publications (2020-), Quantitative Science Studies (2019-), Journal of Documentation (2019), Cities (2018), Research Evaluation (2018-), BMC Research Notes (2016), Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology (JASIST), (2012-), Information Research (2015-), Human IT (2014-), iConference (2014-).

Invited opponent at public mid-term PhD seminar of David Dellstig, Dept. of Economic History, Uppsala University, (May 2018).

Senior commentator at public Ph.D. dissertation plan seminar Amira Sofie Sandin, Swedish School of Library and Information Science, University of Borås, (March 2014).

Invited contributor to the annual Elsevier Times Higher Education World University Rankings (2018). Invited contributor (declined) to the annual Clarivate Academic Reputation Survey (2018)

Upcoming research activities:

Tvivelaktig publicering och det föränderliga publiceringsklimatet – webinarium. Rådet för forskningsetik, Sahlgrenska akademin och Biomedicinska biblioteket, Göteborgs universitet 25/1-2022. In Swedish: (Passcode: 655087; Webinar ID: 669 9096 5970)

Recent research activities:

Invited speaker at Scientific communication and gate keeping in academia in Uppsala, Sweden, 24-25 May, 2018

Invited keynote (with Jonas Gurell, SRC) at CRIS2018: 14th International Conference on Current Research Information Systemshosted by Vereniging euroCRIS in collaboration with Umeå University, June 13-16, 2018

Visting scholar at University of Southern Denmark, University Library, August-October, 2018

Convenor (with Björn Hammarfelt) Nordic Workshop on Bibliometrics and Research Policy, University of Borås, November 7-9, 2018

Invited research seminars and scholarly lectures given:

Keynote talks at scholarly conferences

2018    “CRIS data for research on research”. Shared Keynote Address (w./J Gurell) at CRIS2018, 14th International Conference on Current Research Information Systems, Umeå, Sweden: June 15 2018.

2017    “Vetenskaplig kvalitet i den nya publiceringsekonomin”. Keynote Address at SWERA-konferensen, Swedish Educational Research Association, Linköping, Oct 5, 2017.

Plenary talks

2021 AI and visualization for research and business intelligence - making use of complex and extensive information. WebinarAI Sweden/Drive Sweden Lunch and Learn 8 Oct. 2021. Available online: Youtube


2021    Pandemins effekter på öppna forskningsresultat. Invited Webinar with Amina Mansoor, Expressen and Katarina Wiberg, Nat’l Library at the Göteborg Book Fair, Forskartorget, The Swedish Exhibition and Congress Center, Gothenburg, 25 Sep 2021. Available online at the Book Fair web page(subscription)

2021    Två steg mot Öppna data 2026, Panelist, Web seminar for The SND Network, Swedish National Data Service, 15 Apr, 2020.

2020    Machine learning and citation analysis: Full text and linked data. LIBER Webinar: Metrics + Machines 6 March, 2020 (With Charlotte Wien, SDU UB). Available online: Youtube

2019    Societal impact: Twitterkonversationer och länkad data. Metricsseminarium: Vad händer inom bibliometriforskningen i Sverige idag? Kungliga biblioteket, Stockholm, Dec 18, 2019

2019    “Öppen data om forskningens genomslag: Fulltext, länkad data och händelsedata. Keynote lecture at: Infrastruktur för forskningsinformation i ett öppet vetenskapssystem (IFFIS 2019). Kungliga biblioteket, Stockholm, Nov 19, 2019

2019    ”Misstänkt tvivelaktig publicering vid nordiska lärosäten – matchning mot nationella publiceringsdatabaser”. Invited plenary at Swepub användardag, Kungliga biblioteket, Stockholm, Jan 31, 2019.

2019    Invited panelist at the Hearing on Plan S organised by the Swedish Research Council, Forte and Formas on the implementation plan for Plan S in Sweden. Norra Latin, Stockholm, Jan 22, 2019.

2018    “The role of open access with regards to bibliometrics in the merit and resource allocation system– The spectres of predatory publishing and mediocre research”. Visiting Fellow Farewell Talk, University library at University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark, 22 Oct., 2018.

2018    “Academic integrity in scholarly publishing vs. bibliometric compliance” Invited plenary at Seminarium: Predatory journals or shameless authors? Faculty of Education, University of Gothenburg, Feb. 7, 2018.

2016    Symposium on publication and publication practices. Invited panelist at the Doctoral Collegium Symposion. Faculty of Arts, Uppsala University, Dec. 16, 2016.

2015    “Vilken roll spelar bibliometriska indikatorer för den vetenskapliga praktiken?” Invited talk (twice) at SUHF:s konferens Forskningsadministration i fokus. Stockholm: Norra Latin. Oct. 9 2015.

2015    “Resource allocation based on bibliometrics – Are you citeable, my friend?”. Invited plenary at Seminar on “best practice” för utvärderande bibliometri. SUHF:s forum för bibliotekschefers arbetsgrupp för bibliometri, Stockholm: KTH, May 19th, 2015.

2015    ”Bibliometriska indikatorer och modeller för resursfördelning på lärosätesnivå, book release”, Invited plenary at Gränsöverskridande EftermiddagsMöte (GEM), University of Borås, March 18th, 2015.

2014    “Qualitative Scientometrics”. Invited plenary talk at 35th IATUL Conference, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland. June 2-5 2014.

2012    “Inscribed and Circumscribed by Citations – Indicators, Impact and Quality in the Humanities and Social Sciences”. Invited keynote talk presented at the Bibliometrics at the crossroads seminar. Chalmers Library and University of Borås, May 23, 2012.


Conference and workshop presentations (selected):

2021    “Discursive shifts in the Swedish parliament”. Oral presentation at the Digital History in Sweden Conference, 2021, Umeå: 9–10 December. (w./ Eklund J. & Blomgren, R,)

2021    “Semantic Knowledge Discovery”. Oral Presentation at the 26th Nordic Workshop on Bibliometrics and Research Policy (NWB2021), Odense, 3-4 November 2021 (w./ Eklund J.)

2021    “Questionable publishing across countries”. Accepted session (as Organiser) at the STI 2021 at the 25th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators. Aarhus (Denmark) September 13+15+17, 2021

2020    “The Valuation of Docent Merits in Swedish Academia”. Paper presented at 4S/EASST annual meeting: Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and agency of STS in emerging worlds. Prague, Czech Republic. Aug. 18-21, 2020. (w. Erik Joelsson).

2020    “Data as Impact Lab – Hackathon on metascience”. Virtual Session for Interaction and Engagement. iConference, Borås, Sweden, 23-26 March. (w./ Eklund J. & Gunnarsson Lorenzen, D.).

2020    “Clinical guidelines and citations in policy documents, societal uptake”. EC Cluster meeting on Rare diseases. Brussels, 24 Jan 2020.

2019    “Semantic drift of cited references in the medical literature”. Oral presentation at the 25th Nordic Workshop on Bibliometrics and Research Policy 2019, Reykjavik, 27-28 November. (w./ Eklund J.)

2019    “RI2A – Towards a Responsible Institute Impact Assessment”. Paper presented at The 48th LIBER Annual Conference Research Libraries for Society, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland 26-28 June 2019 (pp. 138–139). Dublin. (w./ Evgenios Vlachos & Maéva Vignes, SDU)

2019    “Societal impact: Clinical guidelines and Twitter in depth analysis” Workshop presentation: Research Policy monitoring in the era of Open Science and Big Data. Ghent University Het Pand, 27-28 May, 2019  

2018    “Questionable Publishing in Swedish Academia“ Poster presented at the 23rd Nordic Workshop for Bibliometrics and Research Policy. Borås, Sweden, 8-9 Nov. 2018

2018    ”Professional impact – Highlighting scholarly impact in professional practice. Seminar on Measuring Research. University of Southern Denmark, Odense, Denmark, Aug 23, 2018.

2018    “Performance-based evaluation metricsInfluences at the macro, meso, and micro level.” Paper presented at the international conference Scientific Communication & Gatekeeping in Academia in the 21st Century. Blåsenhus, Uppsala University. 24 May, 2018

2017     “Explorative scientometrics beyond impact indicators – qualitative citation analysis.” Academic Rankings and Metrics Workshop, Visualizations Center, Linköping University, Norrköping Campus., Nov 29–Dec 1, 2017. Invited by David Moats, Linköping University.

2017    “Topic modelling approaches to aggregated citation data.” Paper presented at the 22nd International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators Paris (France) September 6-8, 2017

2017     “Explorative visualization of citation networks with VOSviewer”. EINFOSE Summer School Hildesheim, Burg Katlenburg Aug. 30, 2017

2017     “Quantitative Digital Methods”. EINFOSE Summer School Hildesheim, Burg Katlenburg Aug. 29, 2017

2017    “Meta-metric evaluation of research”. Workshop presentation: Working with indicators, Styrsö, May 11, 2017.

2016     ”The performativity of the citation” Workshop presentation, Accelerated Academy: evaluation, acceleration, and metrics in academic life. Leiden, The Netherlands. Dec. 1, 2016.

2016     ”Utforskande visualisering av citeringsnätverk med VOSviewer”. Metrics workshop – tema visualisering. SUHF, Stockholm, Karolinska Institute. Nov. 8, 2016

2016     “Citation Impact in Clinical Guidelines” Poster presented at the 21st Nordic Workshop for Bibliometrics and Research Policy. Copenhagen, Denmark, Nov. 3-4, 2016

2016     “Professional Impact of Clinical Research”. Paper presented at the 21st International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators Valencia (Spain) September 14-16, 2016

2016     “Happiness as a valuation of nations: from margin to indicator”. Paper presented at 4S/EASST annual meeting: Science & technology by other means: Exploring collectives, spaces and futures. Barcelona, Spain. Aug. 31-Sep. 3, 2016

2016     “Professional Impact”. Workshop presentation: Living with indicators: bibliometrics and research evaluation in contemporary academia, Borås, May 16, 2016

2015     “Meaningful citation analysis?”. Conference presentation: 20th Nordic Workshop on Bibliometrics and Research Policy, Oslo, Norway. October 2, 2015.

2015     ”Om mätbarhet och vad som är värt att mäta”. Workshop presentation: Symposiet Marknader för vetenskaplig publicering. 22-23 Jan, 2015, Stenhuset, Uppsala.

2014     “The Heterogeneous Landscape of Bibliometric Indicators: Evaluating Models for Allocating Resources at Swedish Universities” (w. Björn Hammarfelt and Pieta Eklund). Conference presentation: 19th Nordic Workshop on Bibliometrics and Research Policy, Reykjavik, Iceland. September, 2014.

2014     “Little Scientist, Big Data: Information fusion towards meeting the information needs of scholars”. Conference presentation: Libraries in the Digital Age (LIDA) 2014. Zadar, Croatia. June 2014. (w./ INCITE) 

2012     “Inscribed and Circumscribed by Citations – Indicators, Impact and Quality in the Humanities and Social Sciences” at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) and European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST). Copenhagen, Denmark October 17-20, 2012.

2011     “Securitizing Technosciences: The 9/11-effect on the Research Landscape” (Co-author). Annual Meeting of the Society for the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), Ohio, November 2-5, 2011, 2011. (w./ Mats Fridlund)


Other academic activities

2021    Organizer: “Questionable publishing across countries”. Accepted session (as Organiser) at the STI 2021 at the 25th International Conference on Science and Technology Indicators. Aarhus (Denmark) September 13+15+17, 2021

2020    Organiser: “Data as Impact Lab – Hackathon on metascience”. Virtual Session for Interaction and Engagement. iConference, Borås, Sweden, 23-26 March 2020. (w./ Eklund J. & Gunnarsson Lorenzen, D.

2020    Chair, Session on Text mining and visualiszation” iConference, Borås, Sweden, 23-26 March 2020.

2019    Organizer, together with I. Grypari and V. Stanciauskas, V.: Application of Big Data in Scientometrics. In 17th International Conference on Scientometrics and Informetrics, ISSI. Rome, Italy, Sept. 2, 2019. Workshop.

2019    Organizer (with the Data4Impact team), Workshop on Indicators, Brussels, REA, Belgium, 24 June, 2019.

2018    Organizer (together with Björn Hammarfelt and Marco Schirone), 23rd Nordic Workshop for Bibliometrics and Research Policy. Borås, Sweden, Nov. 8-9, 2018

2018    Organizer (w./ Björn Hammarfelt and Jan Nolin): Symposium om forsknings och utbildningspolitiska studier. Tornrummet, University of Borås 10 Oct, 2018

  • Vetenskapsteori, Scientometri
  • Marco Schirone, CLS, Chalmers (biträdande handledare)

Researcher's publications in DiVA (Digitala Vetenskapliga Arkivet)

Doctoral thesis title

Citeringens praktiker. Det vetenskapliga publicerandet som teori, metod och forskningspolitik (English translation: The practices of the citation: Scientific publication as theory, method and research policy). 2013. Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science University of Gothenburg, P. O. Box 200, SE 40530 Gothenburg Sweden ISBN 978-91-628-8767-4 (print ed.), 978-91-628-8768-1 (electronic ed.)

External Publications

Major articles about Nelhans' research

2020    ”Snedvridna publiceringslistor” (Also in English as ”Many problems with the list”) – Eva Lundgren, GU Journalen #5, 21 Dec, 2020, p.6.

2020    ”Publicering i tvivelaktiga tidskrifter kartlagdLisa Beste. Universitetsläraren #5, 24 Sept. 2020

2020    “Experter skådar in i framtiden” – Anna Falk, Annika Sjöberg Larsson, Tim Andersson & Karin Persson Biblioteksbladet, 28 April 2020, pp. 22-28.

2018    ”Vi forskare ansvarar för vilka mått som används” – Per-Olof Eliasson. Universitetsläraren #8/2018, TEMA: Vetenskaplig meritering, 21 December 2018.

2018    Följer forskningens spår i samhället (Also in English as Following  of research in society – Helen Rosenberg. Magasin 1866, No. 2. 2018, pp. 14-17 (cover story).

2017    Öppet för alla. Men till vilket pris? – Jessica Cederberg. Magasin 1866, No. 2. 2017, pp. 38-41.

2016    IT-tjänst mäter hur forskning når vården – Kajsa Kettil. Borås Tidning, November 2, 2016.

2016    Måttet som styr forskarkarriärer (English version: Factor that influences research careers) – Sara Nilsson. Curie, a Magazine from the Swedish Research Council September 28th, 2016.

2015    Mysteriet med den försvunna kvalitetssnurran – MarieLouise Samuelsson. Universitetsläraren #3/15, April 30th, 2015.

2014    Citeringskulturen påverkar forskningen – Eva Barkeman. Curie – En tidning från Vetenskapsrådet February 6th, 2014.

2013    If I cite your paper, will you cite mine?Significance – Magazine of the Royal Statistical Society. 10(6) p. 5, Dec 2013.

2013    ”Bara ett enkelt citat. Erik Hallstensson intervjuar Gustaf Nelhans”, Ikaros - tidskrift om människan och vetenskapen No. 3-4, p 18-21, 2013.

2013     "The complex role of citations as measure of scientific quality", 14 Oct 2013

Latest publications

Ongoing research projects

Concluded research projects


Research groups